Five bike rides around Windsor
By DIANA GILBERT / Windsor Correspondent
Bikes lean against the fence on Café Noto’s patio almost every morning as cyclists stop for a mid-morning latte or snack. Students hop on their bikes to get to school, and tourists rent them for an up-close-and-personal look at the wine country.
And since the Tour of California will bring bicyclists through Windsor on May 13 during Stage 1 of the race, professional race teams have begun riding through town as they preview the route.
“We’re really honored to be included,” said Mayor Debora Fudge. “This will put Windsor on the national stage, and we will be rolling out the welcome mat big-time.”
Windsor has taken off as a place to cycle for several reasons, said Mike Stollmeyer, owner of Windsor Bicycle Center on the Town Green. “There are fewer cars here than in Santa Rosa. There are world-class routes 20 minutes away in any direction, and it’s quick and safe to get out of town.”
The Town Green is especially accessible, with restaurants, shops and plenty of places to park as bicyclists begin their rides.
Consider taking one of these five routes, four of which are recommended by Stollmeyer. The fifth is the route Tour of California riders will make in May.
Arata / Hembree loop
Distance: About 4.5 miles
Best for: Families or beginners. The route features bike lanes and nothing but right turns.
The route: Park in Lakewood Shopping Center and head north on Los Amigos Road. Take a right on Arata Lane. The road veers right as you approach Foothill Park and becomes Hembree Lane. Follow Hembree to Old Redwood Highway, then turn right. Ride north on Old Redwood Highway and take a right on Lakewood Drive. Take a quick left on Brooks Road South and follow it back to your car.
Best time to ride: Anytime except rush hour, as there is often heavy traffic in the Lakewood shopping center area.
What’s unique: It’s a central, relaxed route with some nice views along Arata, a way for new riders to get started.
Mark West Station / Starr Road
Distance: About 8 miles
Best for: People looking for a shorter ride and views of wine country.
The route: From Town Green, take Windsor Road south. Follow it past Shiloh Road and along the perimeter of the Charles Schulz-Sonoma County Airport. As the road veers right, it becomes Mark West Station Road. Follow it to Starr Road and turn right, going north to Windsor River Road. Return to Town Green with a right on Windsor River Road.
Best time to ride: Midday. Avoid mornings and afternoons because of high school traffic along Windsor Road.
What’s unique: You will see more “Old Sonoma County” terrain.
Eastside / Westside loop
Distance: About 22 miles.
Best for: Anyone, from tourists to recreational riders and enthusiasts, on any bike with gears.
The route: Start from Town Green and head west on Windsor River Road. Turn left on Eastside Road and veer right as it becomes Wohler Road. Cross Wohler Bridge and turn right on Westside Road. Follow Westside north to Healdsburg Ave. Turn right and continue south as it becomes Old Redwood Highway until you return to Town Green.
Best time to ride: October, when fall leaves turn color. Summer weather is great, but the roads are more crowded.
What’s unique: You pass a dozen world-renowned wineries along the way. The terrain is flat to rolling, the roads have big shoulders, and drivers there are accustomed to cyclists.
Alexander Valley / 128 / Chalk Hill
Distance: About 26 miles
Best for: Experienced riders comfortable with hillier terrain. Shoulders are generally wide except on Chalk Hill Road.
The route: Start from Town Green, ride south on Old Redwood Highway and take a left on Pleasant Ave. Turn left on Chalk Hill Road and follow that north to Highway 128. Take a left and continue on 128 just past Jimtown store 128 to the T intersection. Ride straight ahead on Alexander Valley Road to Healdsburg Ave. Travel south through Healdsburg past the bridge at Veteran’s Memorial Beach, then continue as it becomes Old Redwood Highway into Windsor.
Best time to ride: Good any time of year. Because there is no paved shoulder on Chalk Hill Road, it’s best to ride during the day when there are fewer cars on the road.
What’s unique: Beautiful scenery. It’s the most interesting loop from Windsor, with good hills and flats. and topography similar to Tuscany.
Tour of California Loop
Distance: Approximately 10.5 miles
Best for: Cyclists who are interested in checking out the route Tour racers will travel on their way through Windsor.
The route: Begin at the Town Green and head west on Windsor River Road. Turn left on Eastside Road. At Mark West Station Road turn left, then left again on Windsor Road. Follow that north to the Town Green.
Best time to ride: Either spring or fall. At this time of year, afternoons are warm but without the traffic of later in the day.
What makes this route unique: It’s part of the official Tour of California course. But if you ride the other four routes, you’ll already be familiar with these roads.
Share your favorite Windsor routes or cycling suggestions with us by posting a comment below.